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Religious leaders protest Obama drone policy
March 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Religious leaders protest Obama drone policy

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A group of rabbis, reverends and priests has a message for President Barack Obama: stop the drone war.

In a video produced by the Brave New Foundation, a group that uses video and social media to protest against drones, Jewish and Christian leaders describe the practice as "assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles.

“From a New Testament point of view, drones are completely appalling,” the Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl, the retired Episcopal rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told CNN. “The whole idea of killing a guy without giving the guy a chance to surrender is preemptive. That for me was completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

The video criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences.  The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Foreign policy • Politics

March 26th, 2013
02:32 PM ET

Hindus celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors

(CNN)– Holi is an annual Hindu festival welcoming the arrival of spring. The official day of celebration this year is March 27, but regional celebrations have occurred over the past week. Here's a look at some of the best pictures from this year's celebration.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Hinduism

March 26th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

Burning Passover's 'garbage of the soul'

(CNN)– In the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Sha'ari, Joe Liebovitz explains why Jews burn bread for Passover.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Holidays • Judaism

Like GOP, evangelicals look to rebrand
Evangelist leaders such as Rick Warren have spoken for evangelicals for years, but he and other leaders must adjust, some say.
March 26th, 2013
09:47 AM ET

Like GOP, evangelicals look to rebrand

By John Blake

(CNN) - There’s been a lot of debate about the Republican Party’s need to rebrand after the 2012 presidential defeat, but could evangelicals face the same challenge?

The evangelical community, too, has been involved in some collective soul-searching. Evangelical leaders constantly warn that young people are deserting churches; pastors struggle to address changing views on homosexuality; and others wonder how evangelicals can remain relevant when a growing number of Americans refuse to identify with any religion.

Relevant magazine, an evangelical publication, tackles these issues head-on in its latest issue with an article titled “10 Challenges Facing Us in The Next Decade."

“The future is coming faster than ever," the article says, "with the tectonic plates of society, church, culture, technology, economy and environment shifting beneath us.”

FULL POST

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith

Who is on God's side of the marriage debate?
March 25th, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Who is on God's side of the marriage debate?

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – As the Supreme Court considers two major same-sex marriage cases that could change marriage in the United States, religious leaders on both sides of the debate believe they are on God's side of the contentious issue.

In the months leading up to this week's Supreme Court hearings, religious leaders from across the country have held prayer vigils and rallies for their respective causes.

At each event, even those with diametrically opposed views, leaders cite biblical principles as the foundation for their beliefs.

"I believe I am on God's side," Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and and opponent of same-sex marriage, told CNN. "I have no question in what God says marriage is."

"I do think we are on God's side because my idea of God is someone that is loving," said the Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral and a proponent of same-sex marriage. "My understanding is that kind of God that loves everyone and wants everyone to live a joyful life."

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Gay marriage • Politics

March 25th, 2013
10:22 AM ET

Passover horseradish – rooted in tradition

By Kat Kinsman and Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

(CNN)–Plenty of traditional foods pack an emotional whallop, but few of them back it up with a sensory punch as strong as horseradish's. The pungent root is a key part of a Passover Seder plate (along with salt water-dipped vegetables, a shank bone, a hard boiled egg, a sweet paste of apples and nuts called charoset, and a bitter vegetable – often lettuce) and symbolizes the harsh lives of the Israelites before they were delivered from slavery in Egypt.

Growing horseradish is a tradition for the Schmitt family. Phillip Schmitt's grandfather moved the family's farming operation from New York's borough of Queens to the Eastern end of Long Island in 1929, under protest from his own father who couldn't believe that anyone would want to set up shop in that then-desolate region. Schmitt Family Farm found a permanent home in Riverhead, New York in the 1970s, and now Phillip and his son Matt grow 164 acres of greens (mostly spinach, collards and kale), herbs, beets and flowers – and a single acre of horseradish.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Holidays • Judaism

March 25th, 2013
10:10 AM ET

My Take: Will gay rights infringe on religious liberty?

Editor's note: Marc D. Stern is the general counsel of the American Jewish Committee and a contributor to the book, "Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty."

By Marc D. Stern, Special to CNN

(CNN) - It was inevitable that the debate over same-sex marriage would have a strong religious component. This is partly because it involves such questions as the interpretation of biblical passages that, on their face, condemn homosexuality as a sin. But it also involves squaring the authority of ancient texts with modern theological understanding and developments in biology. And of course, the importance of love and human autonomy as religious values should be considered.

Those issues surfaced in the various briefs filed in the Supreme Court, some of which are written as if the court must inevitably choose one religious point of view as the winner and the other as the loser. This is a false choice. The Court can make all winners, or at least avoid allowing one side to suppress the other's deepest beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not been asked - nor could it possibly answer - the question of what God or the Bible thinks about same-sex marriage. Religious groups are divided on that question, some supporting and others opposing same-sex marriage. And even if the religious viewpoint were clear, it should play no direct role in deciding whether the Constitution requires the states or the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. Our government should not act to further one or another religious view of contested moral issues.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Gay marriage • Gay rights

The money man behind atheism’s activism
Todd Stiefel, a wealthy businessman, is responsible for bank rolling many atheism activism projects.
March 23rd, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The money man behind atheism’s activism

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - Todd Stiefel is far from a household name, and the odds he gets recognized on a street corner, even in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, are small.

For Stiefel, a slim, scruffy ex-Catholic, his public persona is his wallet and activism. Through the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers. Most of the highest-profile atheists campaigns –- flashy billboards in high-traffic areas, news-making efforts to get atheists to come out of the closet, and boisterous rallies - are funded by his fortune.

Stiefel isn’t shy about his far-reaching goals.

“What I am trying to accomplish is multifold, he told CNN. “I consider myself working on the next civil equality movement, just like women’s rights, LGBT rights and African-American Civil Rights. We are still in the early stages of eliminating discrimination against atheists and humanists. That is something I really want to accomplish.”

So far, Stiefel has pumped $3.5 million into those aspirations, and his money benefits a number of atheist organizations, from the Clergy Project, a group that helps atheist and doubting clergy out of the closet, to American Atheists, arguably the most in-your-face atheist group in the country.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism

March 23rd, 2013
10:00 AM ET

New pope, old pope meet for lunch

By Laura Smith-Spark, Ben Wedeman and Hada Messia, CNN

Castel Gandolfo (CNN)–Pope Francis is having lunch Saturday with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in what may be an encounter unprecedented in Church history.

Since a new pope usually takes the reins only following the death of his predecessor, this is a rare occurrence.

Francis, who was inaugurated as the new head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on Tuesday, has made some changes since taking the helm - most notably by adopting a simpler, personal style and calling for the Church to focus on serving the poor and needy.

The new pontiff was flown to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter for the lunch date.

Read the full story here

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis

March 23rd, 2013
09:38 AM ET

My Take: The Empathy President gives an empathy speech

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In religious studies courses, professors often try to get their students to see the world through Hindu eyes or to walk a few miles in the shoes of a Confucian. Anthropologists refer to this as cultivating an emic (or insider) perspective. The less fancy name for it is empathy.

Barack Obama is, for better or worse, an empathetic man who has tried for years to see the world through Republican eyes even as he has pleaded for Republicans to walk a few miles in Democratic shoes. As a former community organizer, he knows that you need a little empathy all around to get anything done among people with different world views. Alas, his efforts have met with little success in gridlocked D.C.

This week, Obama took his toolbox of hope, change, trust and empathy to Israel. Addressing a group of Israeli students in Jerusalem on Thursday, he spoke of Iran and of America’s unwavering support for Israel. He even fended off a heckler, joking, “We actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Foreign policy • Israel • Jerusalem • Middle East • Obama • Palestinians • Politics

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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